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Diabetes is a condition often placed on the margins of ‘seriousness’. It is often

believed to impact minimally on an individual’s everyday life and, while this may be

true for some people, living with diabetes is not always experienced so ‘easily’.

Research from myriad disciplines has begun to shed light on the complex personal

issues of living with the condition, but, with a few exceptions, there is little input from

human geography. This thesis hence explores the ‘geographies of diabetes’ in more

detail. The findings hinge around a ‘recession’ of the diabetic body in public space.

This recession is both discursive and material, caused by the assumptions and

expectations of others that diabetes is among the minor of chronic conditions, largely

overcome by insulin and ever advancing technologies which enable greater self-

control over the diabetic body. Visible diabetic bodies are hence subject to a

disciplining gaze, for having transgressed these expectations.

This thesis finds that, despite many people displaying their diabetes minimally

in public, the condition impacts greatly on a personal level. People with diabetes are

aware that their bodies are at risk of both short- and long-term complications more so

than if they did not have diabetes. These vulnerabilities serve to create anxious bodies

for whom everyday spontaneity is curbed and dependency is heightened. In order to

conceal the visible signifier of diabetes, to avoid the disciplining gaze, people

‘perform’ aspects of their self-management, hence further obscuring the anxious

realities of living with diabetes. The embodied differences of having diabetes along

with the discursive ‘recession’ of the condition, contribute to an ideal of ‘diabetic

citizenship’. It is to this ‘diabetic citizen’ – who experiences the condition with few

problems, and with any difficulty attributed to personal and moral failing – that many

people with diabetes express their frustration. Through the methods of online

questionnaires and face-to-face interviews, this thesis raises awareness of the

clandestine geography experienced by people with diabetes.

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“Why the pluck would you want to be injecting insulin 99% of the places you

mention? … All you do is eat a couple of sweets to solve the problem [of

hypoglycaemia]. What has safe got to do with it?” (Elliot).


In Chapter 2 I introduced the wealth of literature concerned with the effectiveness of

DAFNE courses in improving life with diabetes. I argued that, while this research has

merit, its usefulness for understanding the day-to-day life of PWD is limited. It flirts

only briefly with spatial issues, often confining the evaluations of the DAFNE course

to immediate eating practices. Living everyday with diabetes is so much more, and I

argued that an increased sensitivity to space and place is vital when attempting to

understand the lifeworld of a PWD. Such investigations have been commenced by

Mol (2008), and I wish to expand further on her observations. In this chapter I will

discuss the spatial contingencies of life with diabetes. Taking certain spaces in turn, I

will make reference to parts of my questionnaire which asked participants to rate how

‘safe’ they would feel if they were to experience a hypo in a list of various public and

private spaces. These results will be presented in chart form to show trends. I will also

draw upon interview responses, allowing them to complicate the basic questionnaire

results. Of course, my directing of questions in both the questionnaire and interviews

to broad spaces such as home, work and public spaces meant that I often controlled

the direction of this spatial discussion. However, contradictions between the

questionnaire rating scale questions and written or oral responses from participants

demonstrate how these discussions were much more intriguing than simple

assumptions; of, for example, private and home spaces = safe / public spaces = unsafe.

Participants co-opted the questions to express their own distinctive spatial frustrations

and spatial strategies, and their responses are imbued with ideas about concealment

and exposure of diabetes in certain spaces. This finding raises questions about how

the treatment and care of PWD should be approached by clinicians, with perhaps more

focus on diabetes as a spatially diverse condition rather than one that is bounded only

within the ideal practices and aims taught in hospital spaces. While the Scottish

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